Keyboard and Camera

Deciphering the DSLR

Everything You Need to Know For Your First Time Using a DSLR

When first using a DSLR camera, it can be stressful to figure out the right combination of settings to get the best photo. No matter whether its a Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc the techniques are universal and will help you get a better photo faster; without having to use automatic (which we all know isn’t always reliable).

Firstly, there is something called the Exposure Triangle in the world of cameras. It pinpoints the three functions that affect a photo’s light:

  • Iso
  • Shutter Speed
  • Aperture
City Lights
Photo by Peng LIU on

The ISO can be raised and lowered to help add or take away more light. The ISO setting is essentially making your camera more or less sensitive to light. Therefore, lower numbers (100, 200, 300) make the photo darker, and higher numbers (1600, 2400) make the photo brighter. So, why not just keep the ISO cranked up? You actually want to keep the ISO as low as possible in order to avoid grain in your photos. This will enhance the overall quality.

Shutter Speed controls how long the sensor is exposed to light. Meaning, if you have a slower shutter speed (1/10, 1/100, 1/250) the camera sensor is exposed to light longer and the photo is lighter, and vice versa with faster shutter speeds (1/1000, 1/2000). But, if you’re trying to catch any action shots, having a fast shutter speed is necessary to eliminate motion blur on your moving subjects.

Aperture, also known as F-Stop, controls how much light is able to hit the sensor. A wider aperture (1.8, 2.8) will allow more light into the camera, where as a smaller aperture (16, 22) will cause the photo to get darker. Aperture also allows you to manipulate your depth of field and make the subject stand out. A wider f-stop will make the background and foreground blurry. A smaller f-stop will make most everything come into focus.

Knowing how to manipulate these settings will get you to your best looking photo. Knowing how to make them all work together into a masterpiece, on the other hand, takes practice. There is a certain harmony that can be reached between the settings to create a great image. In the daylight, keeping your ISO low, your shutter speed medium, and your aperture medium will make a nicely exposed image. In the dark, try a high ISO, low shutter speed, and small aperture. This foundation of knowledge will help you practice and succeed in photo taking.


Sources and other references:

How to Use Your DSLR Camera

Understand Your Digital SLR

8 Easy Steps to Learn Manual Mode



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